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Old 11-11-2008, 02:31 PM   #1
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A ride to and history of the GA Nuclear Aircraft Laboratory

Dawson County. Lots of strange things here.



What we are about to delve into is to me a fascinating subject, and the fact that all this transpired a mere 15 or 20 minutes from our house is the most amazing thing of all.

Many metro Atlantans have at least heard about the fact that Atlanta Hartsfield Airport (or Hartsfield Jackson as you are supposed to call it now ) has owned property somewhere in North GA to supposedly one day build a 2nd Atlanta Airport on. Well, that property is called the Dawson Forest Wildlife Management Area, otherwise known as the Georgia Nuclear Aircraft Laboratory, and also known as Air Force Plant #67.
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Old 11-11-2008, 02:45 PM   #2
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Old 11-11-2008, 03:04 PM   #3
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In the beginning of the 1950's, the Georgia Nuclear Aircraft Laboratory (or GNAL) was built with the goal of creating a nuclear propulsion system designed to go into military aircraft. This was a collaboration between Lockheed Martin, the USAF, and the Atomic Energy Commission. The facility was large, taking up several square miles, and consisted of three separate sites: The hot cell building (which still stands today... more about that later), a cooling site, and the reactor site. A railway system transported materials between the 3 sites.



The reactor was a 10 megawatt 'air-shielded' reactor. The reactor was kept inside a concrete pool when not in use and during operation it had to be raised from the pit. The reactor was unshielded when in operation! Every time it was used the entire landscape would also become irradiated. According to the research I have done, all plants' foliage was gone after only a few uses.



Because of this, all employees had to retreat to underground facilities during operation of the reactor. I have not been able to find an exact recollection of the floorplan of the underground facility, but it is said to be immense. I have read reports stating it is anywhere from 3 to 5 stories deep. There is also an underground parking area as well as tunnels that connect the facilities! Of course, when the lab was decomissioned in the 70's they blockaded every entrance. Something else to note is that because of the water table, during the years the building was in use, water had to be pumped out to keep the building from drowning. Now that 30+ years have gone by since it was operational, the entire building has flooded, creating an expanse of manmade underwater caverns. Again, more on this later.
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Old 11-11-2008, 03:11 PM   #4
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Who needs a nuke when you have a flux capacitor? Hmmm
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Old 11-11-2008, 03:13 PM   #5
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Old 11-11-2008, 03:18 PM   #6
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Research continued for many years on nuclear powered aircraft. This was during the time of the Cold War, and understanding nuclear power was a top priority of the US government. Theoretically, a nuclear powered aircraft would reamin in the air for weeks on end without ever needing to be refueled. However, this plan was never realized. It is said that the big hurdle which could never be jumped was creating a proper firewall and contamination system to protect the pilot from becoming irradiated. Kind of an important obstacle, eh?

Eventually, as the Cold War neared an end, use of the facility shifted. They started to realize that when certain products became irradiated, they took on new properties. This created Lockheed Nuclear Products, which was most famous for radiating wood, of all things. And junky Pine wood to boot. This new product became known as "Lockwood" as is said to have been used in the flooring of the Atomic Energy Commission in Germantown, Maryland.

Even with all this craziness I just told you about, it gets even creepier as the years pass. Around 1958 the site became the location of serious radiation studies and even animal experiments. They subjected wildlife to MASSIVE doses of radiation. The most heavily documented involves the releasing of various populations of rats into the fields and forest. After they were released, the reactor was used, then the rats were captured and the effects were recorded. Radiation is measured by 'rads'. A lethal dose of radiation for both rats and humans was considered to be between 500 and 650 rads. 7394 rads were released into the environment during this experiment, which took 3 weeks or nearly continuous reactor running. Needless to say the rats suffered a mortality rate of close to 100% among other effects.

flux_capacitor screwed with this post 10-15-2010 at 12:10 PM
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Old 11-11-2008, 03:23 PM   #7
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But stranger STILL is the fact that the government used Dawson Forest to simulate the effects of a nuclear war!!! Radiation doses of up to 'supralethal' were given in a successful effort to recreate nuclear war without the effects of the heat and blasts assosciated with bombing the place. This was circa 1959 and 1960. Because of the threat of nuclear war with the Soviets, this need to understand our nation's ability to recover from a nuke was at the time a top priority. This had a direct and lasting disastrous impact on the forest. 100,000 rads were absorbed within a thousand foot radius of the reactor, with effects being recorded as far as 4000 feet away.
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Old 11-11-2008, 03:25 PM   #8
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Cool stuff- looking forward to reading this one. I've seen at least one TV show on the project and read a fictional book on one of the two U.S. proposals for nuclear aircraft titled "Steam Bird". Wild stuff.

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Old 11-11-2008, 03:27 PM   #9
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Thumb awesome stuff

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Old 11-11-2008, 03:30 PM   #10
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You had me at history.

You have my undivided attention.

This is gonna be awesome.


More please....
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Old 11-11-2008, 03:34 PM   #11
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The complex and facilities were decomissioned in 1970, and the land was sold the city of Atlanta for possible future use as the aforementioned 2nd Atlanta airport. During this time, the DNR has been keeping over the tract, and managing it as a WMA.

Most all the buildings were knocked down, save the hot cell building. As I mentioned before, the pumping of the water out from the underground facility stopped, flooding the entire underground complex.

Evidence of this land's legacy still exists.

This area is popular now with horse riders, hunters, bicyclists, and hikers. Much of the area has become the parking area for these recreationalists.

Here are some shots of the 'parking area' which used to be structures. All that exists now are the foundations.





I am not sure what this building was, but it appears to have been a loading dock of some sort. There is a big ramp, and an indented area which looks like a truck or railbed would back up to it.







The top of it has rail lines which are overgrown with weeds.



The back side of that platform has some stairs in it.



The main 'parking area'. I wonder how many people park here, never knowing what they are walking on.

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Old 11-11-2008, 03:35 PM   #12
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That explains why Bill Elliot just won't quit, he's fucked up on radiation.
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Old 11-11-2008, 03:42 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by flux_capacitor

Now that 30+ years have gone by since it was operational, the entire building has flooded, creating an expanse of manmade underwater caverns. Again, more on this later.
I bet there are some X file creatures down there.
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Old 11-11-2008, 03:45 PM   #14
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As you move to the back of the parking area you notice a big clearing, with rock formations (I assume for big trailer parking... horse stuff is huge in the forest) and beyond that is a fenced in area which houses the neatest thing.





They do NOT want you crossing this fence. Actually, there are 2 fences, one fence inside another fence.



This area, my friends, is the only surviving building... the Hot Cell building.















You can walk all around it, and actually get pretty close, but it is hard to get an unobstructed view of it. There are actually a few little buildings surrounding it that are harder to see.





This little building... I do not know what to make of it. It is raised up like a deck, but I can't tell if there is emptiness underneath or solid earth. I am thinking maybe an underground safety bunker but who knows?











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Old 11-11-2008, 03:45 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GaM
I bet there are some X file creatures down there.
You couldn't PAY me enough to go in there. More on that in a bit!
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